My favorite scar is a mark on my hand.
It’s a perfect circle about the size of a wedding ring, in that part of my hand just over the bottom knuckle of my thumb. It’s faded to a dull pinkish color, almost invisible most of the time, but when I make a fist it stands out proudly like a little shield.
It’s from a rookie mistake I made while working with a very powerful industrial drill press. it was turned off at the time, but the drill head turned out to be still pretty hot.
If I’d been wearing my work gloves like I was supposed to be, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it.
For a couple of years after I got it, every time I saw that scar it just pissed me off. There’s nothing about that story that makes me look good; it’s not a scar from saving a kitten or from doing something foolish for love. There was no tradeoff in exchange for it. It’s just the residue of a dumb mistake.
I stopped noticing it, eventually, long after the healing had finished. Eventually it stopped being an unwelcome brand and simply became a part of my hand, as much a part of me as the skin around it. It became familiar.
And that’s what’s special about scars. A scar is more than a mark where you were wounded. It’s a mark that has become a part of you.
I spent a lot of time looking at that scar, while writing Kindling. It took me years to stop resenting my scar, and that little circle didn’t take actually anything away from me.
What if the wounds you carry were so deep they broke your whole life? What would it take to heal something like that, to take that wound and turn it into a scar, to allow it to become a part of you? What would it take to love that kind of scar?
That’s where the characters of Silas and Asher came from. Kindling is a story about love – not just the love between two people, but about the way that kind of love can help us learn to love ourselves, scars and all.
In this excerpt, Silas takes a big step – finally letting someone else see his scars, uncovered.
“What’s your thing, anyway?” Asher turned to him. “These days, I mean. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you playing anything. Vocalist?”
“Yes you have,” I blurted out. The smell of burning flesh rose up in the back of my mind. “I… played piano and violin. And guitar, of course. I was… pretty good once.”
“There’s still options,” he said, carefully, the edge of something tinging his voice.
I looked at him, and maybe it was the drink, or maybe it was something about Asher. Maybe I was just tired of avoiding the subject. But whatever the reason, I found myself shucking my sleeve back.
The brace was built to be as unobtrusive as possible, but there was only so subtle they could get and still wrap a chunk of plastic around my wrist. It wrapped around my forearm in three places, most of the way up to the elbow, and the rigid backing pushed out almost to the knuckles knuckles. A fourth strap wrapped up over the mass of new cracks on my palm, between fingers and thumb.
I couldn’t have a made a fist with it on, even if I could stretch the skin that much, and the palm strap was high up enough to keep his fingers straight to the second knuckle. Cheap crap on a cheap crap fix.
“I got… burned,” I explained. “Playing with Kristoff Knight. Fucked up my hand pretty good.”
None of this was news, not even to him. But I needed to say it, needed to hear myself say it.
Asher was looking at it curiously, but there wasn’t any pity in his posture. Maybe that’s why I didn’t flinch away.
“I pretty much can’t play anything at all, anymore. I’d probably drop a fucking tambourine.” I’d meant it to be self-deprecating, but it came out closer to petulant.
“Drums, maybe,” Asher mused. He reached out, but stopped himself. “That thing is actually kinda neat. Can I?”
“What?” I was nonplussed. I turned my forearm over, and Asher reached for me, glancing up for confirmation before he let himself make contact.
I nodded hesitantly, flinching just a little when he touched the brace. But it felt right, somehow.
Asher’s fingertips brushed along the plastic, turned my arm gently.
“You must really hate this thing,” he said, quietly.
I shook. It was a strange feeling, someone else’s hands on the brace, like the feeling you get when a dentist is digging around in the roots of your molars. Someone’s hands on a part of you that shouldn’t ever be touched, should be buried under more accessible flesh.
I could feel the contact as pressure against my arm, but nothing else. No texture, no heat. No pain.
I needed it off me, suddenly. I worked the palm strap free with my right hand, ignoring the twinges of complaint in the bad wrist. I’d already put up with one tantrum from it today, it could fucking deal with it.
The bad hand emerged out of the cocoon of plastic, cupped in Asher’s hands.
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